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Brief Guide to Copyright & Fair Use: Copyright Law

Copyright @ SU

The purpose of this guide is to provide the SU community with basic information about copyright law and fair use in an academic setting. This guide is not meant to offer or substitute for legal advice.

Copyright law defined

Copyright law, as defined in Title 17 of the United States Code, protects "original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression" for a limited period. Copyright protection includes, for instance, the legal right to publish and sell literary, artistic, or musical work, and copyright protects authors, publishers and producers, and the public.  Copyright applies both to traditional media (books, DVDs, CDs, etc.) and to digital media (electronic journals, web sites, etc.). Copyright protects the following eight categories of works:

  • literary works
  • musical works
  • dramatic works
  • pantomimes and choreographic works
  • pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works
  • motion pictures and other audiovisual works
  • sound recordings
  • architectural works

Ownership of a copyrighted work includes the right to control the use of that work. Use of such work by others during the term of the copyright requires either permission from the author or reliance on the doctrine of fair use. Failure to do one or the other will expose the user to a claim of copyright infringement for which the law provides remedies including payment of monetary damages to the copyright owner.